On Jan. 7, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), joined by co-authors and supporters, announced new amendments to Senate Bill 50, the More HOMES Act (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity and Stability).
SB 50 is designed to increase housing production – California has a 3.5 million home shortage – by increasing zoned density (legalizing apartment buildings and affordable housing) near public transportation and job centers. Under SB 50, cities will not be able to limit density near job or transit centers, and will be required to allow small and mid-size apartment buildings.
The amendments allow for more local flexibility in how best to implement the legislation. Specifically, the amendments create a two-year delayed implementation period for the legislation, allowing cities to craft their own alternative plans that meet the goals of SB 50. If state agencies confirm that a city’s proposed alternative plan is sufficient, then the alternative plan will govern at the end of the two-year delayed implementation.
This new flexibility, however, will not be unlimited. Alternative local plans will have to zone for at least as much housing as SB 50 would zone for, not increase vehicle miles traveled by delinking housing from jobs and transit and thus creating sprawl, and not violate fair housing principles, for example, by concentrating new housing disproportionately in low income communities and communities of color while having less density in wealthier neighborhoods.
“California’s massive housing shortage is taking a huge toll on our state’s residents,” Wiener said. “Young families are being pushed out, kids can’t come back to live where they grew up, people are being pushed into homelessness, evictions are spiking and we’re seeing a surge in super-commuters who clog our freeways and increase carbon emissions as they spend hours a day on the road … We’ve heard loud and clear that cities want the flexibility to implement this kind of legislation in a way that works best for them. The amendments allow cities this flexibility while ensuring that any local alternative plan meets SB 50’s goals to increase housing supply, promote environmental sustainability and fair, non-discriminatory housing policy. I’m increasingly optimistic that we can move this critical legislation forward this year.”
Wiener introduced SB 50 in December 2018. In April 2019, SB 50 was passed by its two policy committees – the Senate Housing Committee and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee – in nearly unanimous bipartisan votes. In May 2019, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee delayed SB 50 until January 2020. The deadline to pass SB 50 out of the Senate is Jan. 31.
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